One of our most important epics, Mahabharata is a tale full of nuance, morals and intrigue. It is indeed heartbreaking then to see the tale bland and watered down in the name of animation.
This film, touted to be India's most expensive animation, is as much an eye-sore as it is dull.
One also wonders if this tale is appropriate for children (the natural target audience for animation), considering the basic grain of Mahabharata's story is brutal.
The film trails the story right from the starting of enmity between the cousin clans --Kauravas and Pandavas, right until the final war.
As far as kid-friendliness is concerned, there's a marked amount of violence. So you have scenes like a character flinging a live person into the fire, an extended scene of Bheeshma Pitamaha's death by multiple arrows and blood-fuelled war scenes.
For her introduction scene, the insulting dialogue talks about Draupadi's "kamar ke latke jhatke" with a close up of her waist. And Krishna eggs on Arjun for the war by saying, "Ye tumhari maa-behen ko bhi nirvastra kar sakte hain."
As for the animation, it is bizarrely below-par. The characters' looks are modelled after the A-list talent lending the voices. So you have Amitabh Bachchan (voicing Bheeshma Pitamaha), Ajay Devgn as Arjun, Vidya Balan as Draupadi, Jackie Shroff as Duryodhan, Anil Kapoor as Karna, Sunny Deol as Bheem, Shatrughan Sinha as Lord Krishna, Deepti Naval as Kunti and Manoj Bajpayee as Yudhisthra .
But one wonders why each actor was made to look their unflattering worst in the animated versions. And they all have extremely “frozen” expressions, which is again disappointing.
The battle scenes have the decades-old trick of two arrows colliding with each other to produce fireworks. About the only visually intriguing portion is the depiction of the 'Maya Mahal' (enchanted palace).
Director Aman Khan follows the conventional telling of Mahabharata with no new nuance or perspective. There are abrupt cuts between scenes; and the dubbing and expressions are often incongruent. The background score and songs are mediocre.
The film ends with a super-preachy message. I guess that was expected in a film that began with saying it wants to "promote Indian culture among the youth.”
One wishes our filmmakers quit mythological stories and gave our little viewers more age-appropriate stories that are full of magic and fun. That, or at least interpret the heavy-duty mythology to suit the sensibilities of children. Otherwise all they see is war, revenge and killing without understanding the real learning behind these epic stories!
Rating: One and a half stars